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  1812-1861       1862-1911       1912-1961         1962-1999      2000-2012  

A Princeton Seminary Timeline 1812-1861

Before 1812 


First Edition of John Calvin’s Institutes published



British Parliament convenes the Westminster Abbey



Early Presbyterian Congregations organized in such places as Newark, Elizabeth, and Woodbridge, New Jersey; Fairfield, Connecticut; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



Francis Makemie and seven other ministers form the first American presbytery



William Tennent Sr. moves to Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, and begins his Log College



David Brainerd preaches to Native Americans at Crosswicks and Cranbury



College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) established at Elizabeth, New Jersey, at the home of Jonathan Dickinson



College of New Jersey moves to Nassau Hall in Princeton



Dutch Reformed church establishes a seminary which would eventually become New Brunswick Theological Seminary



First Presbyterian General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America is held in Philadelphia



Ashbel Green graduates from the College of New Jersey, delivering his valedictory address in the presence of George Washington



Need for more systematic efforts in the field of theological education regularly discussed at General Assembly



Congregationalists establish Andover Seminary in Massachusetts



After looking at several competing ideas, General Assembly appoints a committee to develop a plan for a single theological seminary, to be centrally located. This plan “for the establishment of a Theological School, intended to increase the piety and learning of candidates for the holy ministry, as well as to procure a larger supply of ministers for the wants of the churches” is drawn up by Ashbel Green and others, circulated among the churches, and adopted by the General Assembly of 1811.


1812 – 1861 


Princeton, New Jersey, temporarily chosen as a location for the seminary. Ashbel Green chosen as president of the Board of Directors. Archibald Alexander appointed first professor. Site offered by Richard Stockton, a son of the signer of the Declaration of Independence. The library is formed unofficially in the care of Professor Alexander. The first books were two Hebrew bibles.



Samuel Miller appointed second professor of the Seminary. Princeton made the permanent location. Class of fewer than a dozen students met in the study of Archibald Alexander’s home and additional functions were held in Nassau Hall at the College of New Jersey.



Charles Hodge raised to rank of third professor of the Seminary



Students at Princeton Theological Seminary form the “Society of Inquiry respecting Missions and the general State of Religion”



General Assembly determines to erect a building with a lecture hall and rooms for students. Cornerstone of Alexander Hall (“Old Seminary”) is laid.


Alexander Hall completed (except for cupola) and occupied



General Assembly authorizes the appointment of Charles Hodge, a graduate of the Class of 1819, as assistant teacher


Act of Incorporation of Princeton Theological Seminary under the laws of the State of New Jersey debated by the New Jersey Assembly, passed, amended, and accepted by the General Assembly



Biblical Repertory (later Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review) founded by Charles Hodge



First meeting of the new Board of Trustees. The Board of Directors oversaw academic, faculty, and student matters, while the Board of Trustees was primarily responsible for fiscal affairs and the physical property of the Seminary.



Theodore S. Wright becomes the first African American graduate of a theodore_wright50.jpgPresbyterian seminary. After he is recommended to the Seminary by the Presbytery of Albany, the Seminary’s Board of Directors specifically declares that “his color shall form no obstacle in the way of his reception.”



General Assembly authorizes the building of a chapel and a library



The chapel of the Seminary, since 1893 known as Miller Chapel, erected next to Alexander Hall, facing Mercer Street. Funds were not found for the projected library on the opposite side of Alexander Hall.



Disruption of the Presbyterian Church. Princeton Theological Seminary remains with the Old School.



James Lenox, a Trustee of Princeton Theological Seminary from 1831 until a year before his death in 1880, donates five acres of land across Mercer Street from the Seminary and builds there the first free-standing library in Princeton. Known later as “Old Lenox,” it stood on the corner of Mercer Street and Library Place until the mid-20th century, when it was replaced by the former Speer Library.



Cortland Van Rensselaer, a director of Princeton Theological Seminary and for many years secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Education, undertakes a major campaign to raise endowment funds for Princeton Theological Seminary



Building designed by noted Philadelphia architect John Notman for use as a refectory, with a small infirmary, constructed. This later was modified into a gymnasium and still later into the current Administration Building.



Samuel Miller becomes professor emeritus and dies the following year



Archibald Alexander dies

For a short narrative history of Princeton Theological Seminary, as well as portraits, historic photographs, and writings by early Princeton Seminary authors, see the Special Collections website: